At 27, Shananda Gopaul is already a successful businesswoman with her own store, Magnifique Gift Shop, in Princes Town.No one can tell looking at her but Gopaul is stricken with a debilitating disease described as incurable.
Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, began afflicting her in her teens and she was so ill she was unable to write her CXC examinations.Gopaul said her long, painful battle with the disease took a toll on her physically, emotionally and, sometimes, spiritually.
"My faith in God was wayward at times but, you know, you never go doubting."
With an inner drive that came from her faith, Gopaul learnt to live with stabiliser medicine and a strict diet and began to fight the disease.
"It's still a learning experience. Every day is not the same. Some days the medication and the diet don't work.
"I call those days the not-so-good days. I don't have a choice but to keep moving forward. After God I'm good."
Today, apart from owning her own business, she has also gone back to school and is doing her final year in a business management degree.Recalling her trials, Gopaul said without CXC subjects, what kind of future would she have.She began selling Bath & Body products from her home and door-to-door to earn her own income.
With enduring faith, the good values instilled in her, and the support of her family–in particular her mother–Gopaul made it through those turbulent early years.
"God has really worked in my favour. And He has never failed me."
Recalling the start of her business, selling Bath & Body products really kicked off.
"I did this for three years until I started to get tired being on the road. I wanted a stationary place from where I can sell my products.
"I looked around, saw a little place and said I am going to take this."
Telling herself, "I have to make this work," Gopaul bought used showcases because she couldn't afford brand new ones and set up her store.Throughout her ordeal her mother, Maria, was by her side, guiding and supporting.
"She is my right hand. She is there with me in the store everyday helping me to run it.
"My mom is a special person who very motivating."
Gopaul expanded her range of gift items and, today, her business is doing well, she said.Family values instilled in her gave her that extra drive.
"I grew up knowing that nothing was going to be handed to me, that I had to work hard for what I wanted and be honest and truthful about what I are doing."
She places special emphasis on customer service. "Customers are the reason my store exists."
Her job is not an easy "eight to four" one either. "I have to work extra hours to stay afloat."
Gopaul is facing some new challenges with the economic downturn, but she is meeting them head on, she said.
"Shipping rates, bank rates, everything went up. I import items for the store but I'm looking at alternatives now. I am determined not to go under. I have started operating the business online too and I'm also doing deliveries."
Despite her hectic schedule, Gopaul also finds the time to do volunteer work with the National Association of Crohn's and Colitis to help raise awareness of the disease.She had a word of encouragement for others going through their own battles.
"You can do anything you want to, once you put your mind to it, work hard, be honest and keep going at it."